How do your favorite characters change or grow over time? What is a realistic pattern for growth? As I have written my books so far, I have known where I am beginning and where I intend to end, and the big question is “How do I get there from here?” One of my favorite series of books is Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. The growth evident in Taran, Eilonwy, Fflewdur, and even Gurgi from The Book of Three to The High King is fascinating.
I warn you, the observant reader might pick up some spoilers here, even though I will attempt to be as circumspect as possible.
In my first book, there as an antagonist. He was a childhood antagonist of the protagonist, and this book shows him in that light. He forces the characters into unpleasant and dangerous situations, and he does it because he just doesn’t know any better.
In my second book, the antagonist from the first book has been somewhat humbled. The protagonist from the first book has been held up as an example of what he should be and do, and the former antagonist starts to “get it.” Sure, he occasionally does something to bug the other characters, but I think that by the end of the second book, folks actually like that character – maybe even more than the original “heroes” because of the journey he has made to get here.
In my third book, the redemption of the former antagonist is complete. He is fully heroic, and is an advocate of the heroic position. This requires a new antagonist. For the third book, I opted to begin a gradual fall from grace. Just as characters can grow in positive ways over time (like Aoalbert from the first to the second and third books), they can grow in negative ways over time as well. After all, according to George Lucas, Darth Vader wasn’t born evil, just whiny. By the end of the third book, folks might think they know who is falling from grace and why, but if you knew it all, the last two books would be pretty pointless, wouldn’t they?